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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #116

This is the one-hundred and sixteenth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and fifteen. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

This is ANOTHER special theme week! Each urban legend this week is related to that merry band of mutants, the X-Men!!

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel got rid of the X-Ternals because of threats of litigation by the Highlander folks.

STATUS: False

Blog pal Kelvin asked me this one a LOOOOOOOOOONG time ago (I think late 2005):

Did Apocalypse’s immortal buddies, the X-Ternals, get written out of the X-Men mythos due to the people behind Highlander getting antsy about immortal characters? This is apparently also the reason why Apocalypse himself is no longer immortal, but does the rejuvenation chamber thing.

The X-Ternals first showed up in the pages of Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s X-Force, where Cannonball is seemingly mortally wounded.

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Instead, we learn that Cannonabll is actually an X-Ternal, a rare type of mutant who is virtually immortal. Apocalypse was an X-Ternal, as was Selene and a few other characters, such as Crule and Gideon.

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A few years later, the X-Ternals (who has not been brought up much in Nicieza’s time on the book after Liefeld left the title) were quickly brought back and summarily dismissed.

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Selene ended up killing all of them (except Apocalypse, of course) and then stated that Cannonball was not, in fact, an X-Ternal, after all.

It seemed clear as though Marvel was specifically eliminating these characters, and Kelvin’s theory is that the Highlander folks were pressuring Marvel about the characters, as the whole “special group of immortals” is basically Highlander’s entire schtick.

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I asked former X-Editor, Mark Powers, about it, and he said that no, that wasn’t the case, and it was a decision made by the creative team, not editorial, to close a storyline that was a major part of Liefeld’s run on the title, to give the book a fresh start.

Thanks for the question, Kelvin, and thanks for the answer, Mark!

Mark is currently writing GI Joe for Devil’s Due, as long as an upcoming series called Drafted, in case anyone is interested in reading his current comic work!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Scott Lobdell introduced Onslaught without knowing who or what Onslaught was.

STATUS: True

In Tom DeFalco’s awesome interview book, Comic Creators on X-Men, Scott Lobdell recounts the state of the X-Men books after the bold title-wide Age of Apocalypse storyline.

Lobdell mentioned that after the crossover ended, each title was basically given free rein to try out any type of story they wanted. Warren Ellis wanted an issue of Excalibur where they just went to a pub – he got to do the story. Well, Lobdell’s idea was for some bad guy to toss Juggernaut through the sky, and all Juggernaut would be able to tell the X-Men was one word, “Onslaught.”

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All the other writers were intrigued, but when they demanded to know who Onslaught was, here is what Lobdell said:

I told them that I had no idea, but I just thought it was a cool way to open a story. Imagine someone so strong that they could hurl Juggernaut across the sky! I ended up doing that opening sequence, but I still didn’t know who Onslaught was.

That became a problem later on, when other writers were told to give hints to Onslaught in their titles, but didn’t know who Onslaught WAS!

Larry Hama’s clues in Wolverine, in particular, really didn’t jibe with the later revelation that Onslaught was Professor X himself, corrupted by Magneto’s mind.

But luckily for Lobdell, when Marvel needed a big threat to lead into Heroes Reborn, he happened to have a mysterious big threat in his back pocket, and when it was determined that it was an evil Professor X, then suddenly Juggernaut (Professor X’s step-brother) being the first victim made a whole lot more sense.

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Alls well that ends well! Thanks to Tom DeFalco for the interview and Scott Lobdell for the candor!

Speaking of Larry Hama interpreting Scott Lobdell ideas….

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Larry Hama’s origin for M and Penance was not what Scott Lobdell originally intended for the characters.

STATUS: True

In Generation X, there were two mysterious characters on the team.

First, there was the mute mutant with razor-sharp skin called Penance, because that is what the mutant teleporter Gateway said when she first showed up.

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Next, there was Monet St. Croix, who had lots of weird character tics, and was hunted by a mysterious villain named Emplate.

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After Lobdell left the title, Larry Hama revealed that Emplate was the brother of Penance AND M, and that M was actually made up of two young twin sisters who merged together to form a duplicate of their older sister, Monet.

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Monet, in turn, was trapped in the form of Penance, unable to tell people who she was.

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At the end of the story, the twins switch places with Monet, and became trapped in the Penance skin themselves, allowing Monet to return to being herself again.

That origin, though, really did not fit the clues that Lobdell had laid in the book, and when asked about it, Lobdell explained his actual plans. Here are his answers (courtesy of an interview with Nate Raymond):

Raymond – What was YOUR plan for the revelation of M?

Lobdell – Well, it unfolded pretty much the way I wanted it too up until the moment that M split. From BEFORE her first appearance, the plan was to have her split after that wall fell on her . . . they would go through the wreckage and find the TWINS! After that, EMMA and SEAN were going to be forced to make a truly difficult decision: Do you allow the TWINS to stay together as the supper powered M–thereby putting their lives in constant danger–or do you force them to stay apart and live relatively normal lives (except that would mean the autistic one would never know the freedom she enjoyed as M! Ahhhh, the tragedy.) As you can see, they strayed as FAR away from the original idea as possible.

Raymond – Why is Emplate called ‘Emplate’?

Lobdell – It was short for TEMPLATE–the idea was going to be, as we saw in his first appearance, that he was going to be something of a tabula rasa . . . so that as he feasted on the genetic marrow of mutants, he would eventually take their powers from them as well. Imagine a vampire who could become the person he bit, so to speak.

The hard part about EMPLATE too, is that he only looks cool when Chris draws him. Like SUGAR MAN.

Raymond – Who/what was Penny going to turn out to be?

Lobdell – Penny was short for PENANCE — the only word GATEWAY spoke when he dropped her off after kidnaping her from EMPLATE. But it wasn’t her name, it was GATEWAY explaining this was his penance for his part in the murder of the Hellions. It would ultimately have been revealed that her name was YVETTE, and that she was a sixteen-year-old survivor of the warring in Yugoslavia. She was deaf since birth, which explained her childlike naivete as well as he inability to communicate with others. She was supposed to be the first deaf mutant . . . I think it is kind of sad that she was never allowed to be who she is.

That IS too bad. Sounds like it would have been an interesting origin.

Oh well!

Thanks to Nate Raymond for the interview and Scott Lobdell for the answers!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!

28 Comments

Interesting stuff, Brian. I wonder, though, if Lobdell actually told Hama (or editorial) of these plans. Hama’s a class act, so I doubt he went out of his way to mess with Lobdell’s plans.

Hama’s messing up of Penance’s origin was the last straw for me with Generation X. I stopped reading the book after that issue. Hama isn’t a bad writer, but he really misfired on Gen X. The giant invisible magic weasel and random pointless villain team-ups were bad enough, but the Penance debacle was just too much.

It still amazes me that the writers were able to get even a halfway decent story out of Onslaught, considering all it had stacked against it. They went in with no idea who he really was and they ended up having to incorporate and subsequently kill the Avengers and FF. By all rights it should have been a colossal train wreck (kind of like the following year’s Operation Zero Tolerance).

Generation X #40 was my first American comic book, the only issue of the series I ever read.

Emplate = Sylar?

I didn’t read any story starring the Externals, but I did read Uncanny X-Men when Sam was part of the team and liked the idea of him being immortal. It was an obvious rip-off of Highlander, though. Glad I didn’t have the chance to meet the other Externals.

The first mention of Onslaught was one of the stories featured in the first X-book I ever read, an Hebrew translated series. The other story was, I think, from X-Men #42, in which Holocaust wakes up in Avalon.

Err… Maybe I’m just being dense (wouldn’t be the first time), but how could the Highlander people have an outright claim on anything involving immortals? Surely there’s plenty of “prior art,” so to speak?

Originally they weren’t the X-Ternals. They were the Highlords and didn’t become immortal until they were killed, just like the immortals in Highlander.

Who drew that X-Men cover with the Juggernaut on it?

madureira drew that cover.

Damn, i really need to read Generation X backissues

Yeesh! All that X-Men universe stuff from the 90s was so confusing it still makes my head ache when I think about it!

“They went in with no idea who he really was and they ended up having to incorporate and subsequently kill the Avengers and FF. By all rights it should have been a colossal train wreck (kind of like the following year’s Operation Zero Tolerance).”

It’s kinda cool that the x-office let all the books have their “one issue” of creative freedom. Their was probably alot of pressure from other companies doing crazy things and Marvel lagging behind.

Yes-onslaught could have been much worse, since they didn’t know what they were doing…but they came up with direction from artistic freedom. As opposed to O.Z.T. where they had a clear direction and didn’t have the freedom to have any real reprecussions. Marvel needed a “get out of jail” card for Onslaught, Operation Zero Tolerance- filtered out because the writers could not take risks.

And i’m not talking about stupid risks like character death. My greatest memory of the X-Men is #66?? when you see Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, and Cannonball neutralized/locked up with Bastion standing over Professor Xavier- telling him his dream is over. Underground X-Men is what I live for.

Whatever happened to the St. Croix twins?

Wasn’t there a rumor floating around about the time of the X-Ternals that they only could die when they were decapitated like in “Highlander”?

My god is there some horrible art on most of those covers…

“My god is there some horrible art on most of those covers…”

I can only assume that Marvel’s editorial powers were required to put their eyes in a blind trust during the 90s.

“I can only assume that Marvel’s editorial powers were required to put their eyes in a blind trust during the 90s.”

Ha ha! I think all that crosshatching would blind anybody… :P

Flush it all away

August 17, 2007 at 5:50 pm

Emplate was short for Template? Was it really that hard to include the extra T? In honor of that reasoning, I think we should start calling this Omics Should be Good.

(Oh, and thanks for another great entry! Fridays wouldn’t be Fridays without CBULR. Unless, of course, it’s one of the times when it’s published on Thursday. You get the point.)

In response to #12, I seem to recall that the full idea was that the X-ternals could only be killed if their heads and all four limbs were cut off. Which makes it TOTALLY original, natcherly.

they could only be killed by being stabbed in the heart so the eternal chandra put her heart in a necklace and then storm broke it and such.

Ok, you need to follow up the Onslaught rumour. What you’ve got there sounds good, especially with quotes from Lobdell, but ignores something rather important.

Uncanny #322 wasn’t Onslaught’s first appearence. He debuted in X-Men:Prime (written by Mark Waid IIRC)weeks earlier and attacked Mystique first, not the Juggernaut.

So where did the Prime appearence come from? Was it a late decision after Lobdell intrigued everyone with the idea of Onslaught?

What exactly is the “genetic marrow”. I’ve been wondering that for 13 years now.

Not all the time, of course. Just off and on. It’s not like my entire adult life has been spent on a fruitless quest to learn the meaning of yet another Lobdellism that was meant to be cool-sounding but but was actually utterly meaningless and vaguely annoying.

Really, it hasn’t.

Uncanny #322 wasn’t Onslaught’s first appearence. He debuted in X-Men:Prime (written by Mark Waid IIRC)weeks earlier and attacked Mystique first, not the Juggernaut.

Nope. Mystique was attacked in X-Men Prime (actually written by Lobdell and Nicieza), but we never saw who it was – just someone in the shadows who slashed her across the chest. It may have been rolled into the Onslaught stuff later, but at the time it was just more Claremontian plot-dangling: throw in a mysterious reference with no idea of what it’s going to mean, and it’ll be there when you need it later.

“My god is there some horrible art on most of those covers… ”

They hurt my eyes just looking at them.

To draw an analogy, Liefeld’s approach to “art” is akin to a lousy rock band that tries to compensate for its lack of playing ability by playing really, really loud. Sadly, he started a trend.

Speaking of the Hellions, I have a question : were the original Hrellions intended by Chris Claremeont as a reverse opposite of the New Mutants ? Or a parallel ? I.E Karma/Empath, Wolfsbane/Catseye, etc..

There are some pretty strong correspondences between the Hellions and the New Mutants (Wolfsbane/Catseye and Jetstream/Cannonball in particular), but there are some that don’t match up as well (Roulette and Magma, for example). Karma wasn’t on the team when the Hellions first appeared; Empath and Tarot combined sort of approximate Mirage’s powers. Since the Hellions were created as rivals, it made sense for Claremont to give them powers that would make them a reasonable challenge to the New Mutants (an animalistic character, a strong guy, a flier, a mentalist and a couple of wild cards). He could well have had something more in mind for all I know, though.

I do think that Emplate was revealed as Monet’s brother during the original run.

On an unrelated note, does anyone know if that “Joe Shuster becoming a delivery boy at 50 and sending packages to DC offices in rags” story is true? I hear hushed whispers, etc. about it, thought I’d ask.

It’s too bad the whole Generation X thing got so mixed up. The Lobdell/Bachalo run on Generation X was one of my favorite series as a kid (I’m still trying to collect them all, rummaging through back issue bins), and that original origin for Penance sounds awesome.

Yeah, Hama’s writing and the god awful origin of M made me stop reading Gen X. Lobdell’s origins for both characters sound much better – esp keeping her really be the 2 twins. I loved the few times she got autistic and went into a trance like state. For me, it made her really stand out and seem special.

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